I have read so many how to “reinvent” yourself business books over the years, beginning with The Tipping Point, that was required reading for a meeting at Saks Fifth Avenue when it was published, that I thought I really don’t want to read yet another one…but when I read a review of Beyond the Label and made note of its author I became intrigued and put it on my to be read list.  Written by someone who had really come through the ranks of the fashion world from L’Oréal, The Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and finally, as Global CEO of Chanel I thought this would be the book for me since I am in the process of reinventing myself through and it’s major learning curve.  I had actually put the book on the TBR list and didn’t think more about it when I received an email from a friend/business associate asking me if I would be interested in interviewing the author, Maureen Chiquet, at a program at the Union League Club in Chicago.  How could I say no?  Well, I didn’t….and I can’t wait to meet this dynamic, insanely talented person and hopefully ask her the questions you would want to have answered (I will do another post after the interview and, fingers crossed, have her answer my profile questionnaire, she would be amazing!)

Here are just a few of my initial observations from the book, which I found not only to be a business manual (silly sounding, I know) but also a memoir and the story of a change of one’s thought of career, as a literature major, to the broad world of fashion.  It has always been my feeling that our industry (fashion) requires a vast knowledge of the world around us with a heavy emphasis on The Arts.  Yes, one needs to have a sense of current affairs, information on the history of the industry (I am fanatical about that!) and, of course, a sound background in business (particularly business math) and most importantly what the consumer wants.  All of these principles are detailed in this well-written and engaging book.  Yes, it is a basis for how to advance your career (in any industry), how to network, (crucial to any career), how to think like your boss before you become one, how to become a listening executive, how to be mentored and therefore, how to mentor. How to know when to make the right move to the next step (probably the hardest learning point of all).  Whew, lots to cover.  Ms. Chiquet has accomplished all of this (and now has reinvented herself again as a savvy author and guide to how to reinvent yourself as well) and much much more with insight, humor, realism as well as telling us how to do all this while being female (the topics discussed have no gender!).  Sad that we still have to think that way, but it is true.  I firmly believe our gender is looked on as more equal in the fashion world…am I being naive, I don’t think so!

Our industry moves at the speed of light and one has to not only go with the trends but make them, she has done it all and I am thrilled that she has shared them with us whether a long time professional or an up and coming novice. She is a role model to everyone no matter gender or age for that matter.  Ms. Cliquet has inspired me to go with what I have always felt true, be true to yourself and the rest will follow.  She has lived this philosophy.  It is my pleasure to recommend this delightful book to you.  I will be recommending it to my students at Columbia College Chicago as assigned reading.

The Union League Club event is open to the public, I hope you can join me in welcoming Ms. Cliquet to Chicago and learn more from this fascinating woman…see below for ticket details….

The book will be available for purchase on site from The Book Stall, our independent bookseller



imageFleur Cowles, as I remember her, pictured at home.

Today’s Profile is a bit different from my other Monday posts.  The person I am profiling did not fill out my usual questionnaire but rather it will be a reflection of an artist, a unique creator whose vision took us to a wonderful world of her imagination, that incredible person was Fleur Cowles.  I had the extraordinary experience of meeting and working with her many years ago when she visited Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago’s Gift Shop to introduce her book, An Artist’s Journey.


As usual, as with all our visits, I spent the day (or more) with her and had the opportunity to learn more about her fascinating career so these recollections will have to pull my memory back in time (this was long before the days of instant iPhone technology of photos, videos and recording conversations, more the pity!!!) Why, you might ask, am I doing this post today.  I was reading one of my favorite lifestyle magazines, The World of Interiors current issue and was literally drooling over photos of interiors when I caught my breath I wanted to see whose home it was…it was Fleur Cowles and it was perfection!

I had first become aware of Ms. Cowles many, many years before our encounter in the Store.  It all began at the beginning of the 1950’s when my Father started collecting Flair Magazine. It was a publication like no other then or now and only existed for one year.  It was so expensive to produce that her husband, who was the publisher, pulled the plug, much to the regret of all the followers of the magazine.  Each month was themed and had a cut away cover to allow you to “peek” inside.  As a young girl who as obsessed with fashion and the creative process I was fascinated with each issue, but I think my favorite was the Rose issue which Ms. Cowles insisted be scented (mind you this was long before the scent strip came into being!)  Of course, the painting was by Fleur.

imageIsn’t it glorious….the bouquet is cut away to reveal the charming portrait!

Not only was the art enticing (from Ms. Cowles but also Dali, Dubuffet, etc. etc……) but the stories were written by all the authors and critics of the day, all personal friends of the Cowles.  Not to carry this story too far, several years after my Father had passed away we had a flood, our hot water heater exploded, no one was hurt but the water damage destroyed all my yearbooks, all my childhood dolls, all manner of memorabilia and ALL of Daddy’s art magazine collections and on and on.  All the Flairs were gone!  I have since started collecting them again.  I have four of the thirteen published as well as the yearbook.  But that is the fun of collecting and why I always adore my monthly Randolph Street Market,, visits (Saturday and Sunday, May 27 and 28 from 10 to 5, the first outdoor Market of the season, yay!!!!) I may come across one or two treasures that might be a Flair I don’t have!


imageOne of my favorite covers.

Don’t always just look at book vendors at RSM, I think the Flairs I have found there have been with vendors who have multiple collections (remember the Printer’s Row Lit Fest is approaching as well as the annual Newberry Library Book Fair, you can fill in your magazine and book collections there as well!!!!)


My copy of the Flair Annual, I have also found this at Randolph Street Market and given it to a couple of my friends who appreciate the unique!

My next experience with her was with the publication of her book Tiger Flower, which I fell in love with.  My assistant at the time was a superb artist, actually trained in the Fashion Design Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she copied the cover for me to needlepoint.  The rendering is exactly the same as the Cowles painting and I think my needlework did it justice.  It is hidden away in storage so I couldn’t get it out to show you, you will have to take my word for it, sorry!

imageIt is a charming story and the art, amazing!

My most recent acquisition was given to me last Christmas by a dear friend….who knows my love for flowers and for Fleur Cowles (mad for her artwork)…a perfect present!


Now for the story of our meeting….I had just gotten back from a trip to London, by now you know I am a major Anglophile, and Ms. Cowles was intrigued by my love of England.  We were discussing the places I had visited, I adore all Museums so that became our main topic.  She told me that the BBC had asked her to be filmed for a series they were doing on British notables favorite places (as I recall in London) and she chose The British Museum.  The hairs went up on the back of my neck and I told her my story of my first visit to the museum.  I have long been an admirer of Egyptology, Chicago, as you know, has a long history with Egypt excavations and has many artifacts at The Field Museum as well as one of my favorite museums, The Oriental Institute.  I have visited them countless times and also was fortunate to see the Tutankhamun Exhibit when it visited Chicago, exquisite! Now back to the British Museum….on my visit I took myself directly to the Egypt wing and went from room to room, when I entered one of the very large galleries that housed many mummies, I sensed something very uncomfortable, I really couldn’t then nor now explain the feeling but it was one of extreme sadness, a feeling of trespass, if you will.  I immediately left the room and the Museum and it took me many years to return on one of my visits to the UK.  So what you say…well as I was relating this to Ms. Cowles, she looked at me in a very strange way and told me that was wing she wanted to be filmed in and when they got to that exact room, she felt the same sensation I had had.  She asked the guards if there was anything strange about that gallery and they said they felt it as well and the guard dogs would never cross the threshold!  I guess I do believe in the problem of disturbed spirits at least I did in that room and actually felt a bit better knowing I wasn’t alone!

Ms. Cowles lived a very long life, she died at 101 years of age, after creating beauty that we can treasure to this day…lucky us and very lucky me that I had the opportunity to visit with one of my Father’s and my idols.

imageFleur Cowles in her Studio.

imageAnother view of the Studio now that is what inspiration should look like!  All photos from Pinterest, photo credits unknown.


imagePhoto courtesy Amie Hana

We all know Candace Jordan as the woman about town and her highlights of Chicago’s amazing philanthropic endeavors (she sits on many of the Boards of the organizations she features and knows so well) through her Candid Candace weekly blog (which always keeps us up to date on ALL the noteworthy local events, large or small), her weekly column in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, Candid Candace TV and Candid Candace Chicago Now blog.

I, of course, follow her just like all of you, however, I may have known her a bit longer than some, in her fashion styling and writing efforts, before her blog and other current gigs as well as on the social scene, and I wanted you to get to know her in a more personal light.  I don’t think I had finished sending Candace my nenasnotes questionnaire before I had it back along with an abundance of fantastic photos. I’m thrilled to share them with you.  But first I wanted to let you know why I have held off on running this post until today…tomorrow is, as you know, Valentine’s Day and I wanted to feature Candace and Chuck’s love story, I, therefore, asked her to write a short piece on what makes their story so special….

Chuck and I will be celebrating 28 years of marriage on July 21. I’m not quite sure how I got so lucky to have him for a husband but I thank God every day. I was 35 when we married and Chuck was a confirmed bachelor when we met. A mutual friend introduced us during a lunch at the old Palm on East Lake Shore Drive. After our first date, I went into the bathroom and pinched myself. He was/is everything wonderful rolled into one handsome package. Just proves that when you’re not looking, love happens and I feel so very grateful.” 

imageThe wedding July 21, 1989.

imageThe Lovebirds at a Joffrey Ballet gala.

The Questionnaire:


Well, I don’t know if it was talent, but it developed out of a necessity. I wanted to make money and get out of my small town so I started modeling at age 13 in St. Louis. I was also the youngest fashion coordinator ever at the major department store, Famous-Barr. That’s when I began modeling and I guess realized I photographed pretty well…(Nena’s note, she is being very modest, one of my top model’s, who roomed with Candace in Europe, recalls that she was a superb photo model and was always in great demand!  She continues to photograph like a dream…what is her secret!!!!????) I was valedictorian of my class and received a scholarship to St. Louis U. I went for 6 months and had enough of school. That’s when the new St. Louis Playboy Club was looking for Bunnies, I applied and the rest is sort of history.


I felt like I’d made it when I walked up the steps to the Playboy Mansion and the butler said, “Welcome home Ms. Collins.”


I’ve always been a geek about fashion. Not only did (and do) I enjoy the modeling side, but I love photography, fashion design, make-up–everything that surrounds the field so I think this passion for the industry as a whole has helped me to be in the place I am now.

imageNena’s note…..In a Service Club of Chicago GroFashion Show, still loving the modeling spotlight and why not when you enjoy something and are good at it…I say continue.


I love animals and, at one point, considered a career as a vet. I think I would’ve been a great one and am very supportive of animal causes to this day. I’m on the development board of PAWS Chicago and one of our dogs is a rescue from there.


I love sushi;  Mediterranean cuisine;  traditional ballet; Cole Porter;  house music from La Caves du Roy;  La Scarola;  Gibson’s; Chicago Cut; Ping Pong (the restaurant not the sport);  La Piaggia in South Beach;  will miss Swifty’s (now closed) in NY; Gene & Georgetti’s; ALL the Harry Potter books; historical fiction; I just finished the Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow, the first two books by Amor Towles–I never wanted them to end.  


Chuck and I collect rare books. A highlight is our Potter collection (British and U.S. ) first editions signed by Rowling including the first two movie scripts signed by the actors; I also collect antique Christmas items (19th century Santas, etc.).

imageCandace’s office/library.


Very traditional and also eclectic. I deplore modern and am sad so many antique shops have disappeared with this new Ikea generation. If it’s not warm, cozy and inviting, it’s not for me. Everything in our home has a story and we love it that way. (Nena’s note, check back on Thursday for Candace and Chuck’s amazing home in my Collections posting! Candace, by the way, is a HUGE supporter of Randolph Street Market,, not only as a passionate collector but also a huge advocate of the monthly event on her blog.)


I would have my mother, father, Mary and Jim Johnson (who helped raise me), Chuck’s Grandma Nora and his mom Jean….I miss them all every day. To add to this list, I would include my dear friend from high school who passed too soon, Susie Sager.

imageWith Susie Sager at a school reunion.

 And I love and was raised on, Southern cooking so I would bake a ham with collard greens, fried green tomatoes, corn bread and lots of wine. Oh, and peach pie!


My favorite vacation spot that we had the good fortune to visit yearly for 15 years or more was St. Tropez and the French Riviera. We would meet friends from all over the world there around July 4th and it was the most exciting time.

imageGroup of friends at annual St. Tropez gathering.

I had my 50th birthday party there and the guests still talk about it as the best party they’ve ever attended. Great memories! We also loved our visits to Morocco. We had friends who owned a villa in Marbella and we would take lots of trips to Marrakech, Casablanca, and Tangier–so exotic and so beautiful with the friendliest people.

imageRiding a camel in Doha, Qatar.

On my wish list are Hong Kong, Hanoi, Egypt, Buenos Aires, Greece, India, and Budapest.



As someone who made people smile, always kept her word and was loyal to her friends.


By far, my favorite piece of art that moved me the most upon seeing it for the first time was the statue of David in Florence. We cried.

Nena…I love the strength of David’s head, which we rarely see up close, it is magnificent!


From Candace’s recipe box:

Upside Down Apple Crisp Cake (from Cast Iron Casseroles cookbook)


1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened and divided

1 cup plus 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

2 large tart crisp apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large egg

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract


1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. kosher salt

FIRST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the cake, in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt 1/3 cup butter over medium heat. Add 3/4 cut brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp, nutmeg, stirring to combine. Cook stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Place apple slices over caramel. Set aside.

NEXT: In a large bowl, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter and remaining 1 cup brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed, until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of the bowl. Add egg, beating to combine.

NEXT: In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg. With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat in vanilla until combined

NEXT: Spoon batter over apples in skillet, smoothing top with an offset spatula.

NEXT: For the crumble: In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, oats, butter, flour and salt until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over batter.

LAST: Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert onto a flat serving plate.


imageChicago Magazine’s Belle of the Blog feature.

Candid Candace Chicago Tribune column (; Candid Candace blog (; Candace’s award-winning internet show, Candid Candace TV– ( and Candid Candace Chicago Now blog ( )

Social Media info: Candid Candace on Twitter and Facebook; Candid Candace on Instagram; Candace Jordan on Facebook; Candace Jordan on Pinterest (